Marvin Booker death: Family calls on feds to investigate, after Denver clears deputies

A day after Denver officials cleared five officers of wrongdoing in the death of an inmate in the Denver jail, the family of Marvin Booker made a public plea to federal officials to look into the case.

"None of us could see my brother's reaction because of all of those police on top of him," Booker's brother, the Reverend Spencer Booker, told reporters at a news conference this morning outside the federal courthouse. "They squished his life out."

With fiery language and high emotions, Spencer Booker called for the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the death of his brother, a 56-year-old man who died while in the custody of the Denver Sheriff's Department on July 9, 2010.

The attorney for the family, Darold W. Killmer, said thatt Booker's death was the first inmate death at the hands of one of Denver's deputies. The case of Emily Rae Rice -- "Rae of Sunshine: Emily Rae Rice died in jail. Her friends and family want to know why" -- directly involved Deputy Faun Gomez, one of the officials involved in Booker's death. (Read more about that case at West Denver CopWatch)

Killmer noted that Rice's family received a $7 million settlement from the Sheriff Department and Denver Health. Booker's family is looking for policy changes in addition to those the city announced yesterday, specifically the department's decision to stop using the carotid "sleeper" hold on inmates.

Since being sworn in last January Mayor Bill Vidal has taken steps to "strengthen the reputation," as he put it, of the City and County of Denver's police force. Among other moves, in April he terminated the two officers caught on tape beating two men in LoDo.

Today, Killmer said that's not enough.

"We've been promised 'changes have been made,' but it seems like when we meet the new boss, it's the same as the old boss," he said.

Spencer Booker, who was in town from Kansas City with his wife, Gail, raised his voice during his remarks, ending with this: "They handcuffed him but still asked for Taser. And you tell me that's not a murder? This was a lynching in this city. My family is so angry, so upset, so frustrated that people have to come to your jail and they may not leave alive."

Marvin Booker's life takes shape In a complaint and jury demand filed in federal court back in February: He was born in 1954 in Memphis, came from a long line of pastors, joined the U.S. Army in 1971 at age seventeen, spoke publicly about civil rights and was living recently as a "street preacher to the homeless" in Denver. It's unclear how he came into drug use or if he was a frequent user; the coroner's report stated that Booker had cocaine in his system at the time of his death, and that the drug was a contributing factor to his death.

Below is the video that the Denver Sheriff's Department released to the public on Monday, which shows the entire incident of July 9, 2010:

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Nick Lucchesi
Contact: Nick Lucchesi